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Literature / The Golden Goose

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The Golden Goose (German: Die goldene Gans) is a German Fairy Tale collected by The Brothers Grimm and published in their Children and Household's Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen) collection. It is the number 64 tale.

A man had three sons, and the youngest -called Dummling- was a fool, and continually abused. One day, the older two sons went to cut wood, and were rude with a little old man who asked to share their food, and both of them cut themselves so badly they had to return home. The youngest asked to go, too, and shared his food. The old man pointed him to a tree to chop down, and he found a goose whose feathers were gold in its roots when he did.

The youngest son took it with him to an inn where he stayed the night. One of the innkeeper's daughters tried to steal a feather, and was stuck to it; her two sisters tried as well, and were stuck to her. The youngest son set out the next day, and the girls had to run to keep up with him. The parson chided them for their antics, and grabbed hold, and then he was stuck as well; the sexton tried to rebuke him, and ended up as well.

The youngest son went to city where a princess lived, who was so serious she never laughed, and the king had decreed that she should marry whoever made her laugh. The sight of the procession made her laugh, and so the youngest son married her and inherited the kingdom.

It can be read here, here and here.

Inn the Aarne–Thompson–Uther Index, it is a Type 571 "All Stick Together" and 513B "The Land and Water Ship".

Not to be confused with one of Aesop's Fables, The Goose that Laid the Golden Eggs.

Tropes include

  • Engagement Challenge: The King decrees that, if a man can make the very serious and unemotional Princess laugh, she'd marry him.
  • Kindhearted Simpleton: Dummling is a simple-minded but nice and hard-working man who gets the golden goose because he readily shared his food with an old beggar.
  • Moving The Goal Posts: In some versions, the King is none too pleased at the prospect of having a simpleton peasant as a son-in-law so he tries to drive Dummling away by tacking on three additional, seemingly impossible challenges that he must complete before he can marry the princess. These are finding someone who can eat a mountain of bread, finding someone who can drink all the wine in the kingdom and finding a ship that can sail on both land and sea. Dummling manages to finish all three tasks with the help of the old beggar.
  • Must Make Her Laugh: Dummling's antics make the overly serious and grim-faced princess burst out in laughter.
    Soon afterwards he came to a city, where a king ruled who had a daughter who was so serious that no one could make her laugh. So he had put forth a decree that whosoever should be able to make her laugh should marry her. When Dummling heard this, he went with his goose and all her train before the King's daughter, and as soon as she saw the seven people running on and on, one behind the other, she began to laugh quite loudly, and as if she would never leave off.
  • Old Beggar Test: Dummling shares his humble lunch with a hermit, after his two older brothers snubbed the same hermit and suffered nasty wood-cutting accidents. Not only does the hermit turn the hero's dry bread and water into cakes and wine as a sign of gratitude, but he tells him where to find the eponymous golden goose.
  • Perpetual Frowner: The local princess is unable to smile, to the point that her father grows severely concerned.
  • Rule of Three:
    • Dummling's father has three sons.
    • Likewise, the innkeeper has three daughters.
    • In some versions, the King tries to drive Dummling away by making him complete three impossible tasks.
  • The Runt at the End: Dummling is abused and belittled by his brothers because of being their father's youngest and dimmest son.
  • Schmuck Bait: One of the innkeeper's daughters tries to pluck one feather of the golden goose, and her hand becomes stuck to its wing. Her sister also tries to get a feather, and becomes stuck to her. Then, the third sibling shows up, sees her sisters stuck to goose and screaming her to stay away, and she touches the goose anyway.
    At last the third also came with the like intent, and the others screamed out, "Keep away; for goodness' sake keep away!" But she did not understand why she was to keep away. "The others are there," she thought, "I may as well be there too," and ran to them; but as soon as she had touched her sister, she remained sticking fast to her. So they had to spend the night with the goose.
  • Secret Test of Character: An old beggar asks the three brothers to give him food. Dummling's siblings refuse to, and suffer accidents. Dummling shares his food, and is given the golden goose.
  • Standard Hero Reward: Dummling gets to marry the princess because he makes her laugh.
  • Sticky Situation: Seven persons become stuck to a goose and each other, and they are dragged through several fields and two towns by the goose's owner, who is oblivious to their antics.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The eponymous goose and the seven persons who became stuck to it are dropped from the story when Dummling wins the princess' hand.
  • Youngest Child Wins: The youngest son gets married to the princess.